Green spaces - development threats!
How did we get here?
When five of the green spaces on the Debden Estate were threatened with being put on a list of sites for possible housing developments (see "Background"), the LRA took fast and effective action at a District Council
Overview and Scrutiny (O & S) Committee meeting.
Following the LRA's intervention at the O & S meeting, the Council has changed course. The Council's Portfolio Holder's Advisory Group met on 30th October 2008 (not a public meeting), to consider these five sites as part of a wider exercise of assessing all identified council-owned sites, and sites put forward by private land owners/agents and other public bodies. We had expected that it would be considering the criteria for choosing or rejecting sites to go on the list, and that the views of the O & S Committee would have been taken into account.
In fact, council staff suggested that the whole process be changed, and the idea of an overall plan for the District emerged. The criteria and individual site assessments will come later.
This is a temporary victory for residents and for the LRA, but we are preparing for a long fight.
Protecting Open Spaces: the Open Spaces Society has put forward proposals for creating a new designation to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities (in addition to the present ways of providing protection). Following discussions with LRA, they have included Jessel Green and Rochford Green in Loughton as examples of the sorts of areas the new designation might be used to protect. More.
Around 200 suggestions from local residents, landowners and developers were received by Epping Forest District Council when it asked people to nominate potential sites for all types of future development, including housing, as part of a Government initiative. You can see the list at: http://www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/news/2008/call_for_sites_list.asp. We were particularly concerned about the inclusion of Beech Farm, High Road, Loughton (behind Hillcrest Road) and land to the north of Clays Lane, Loughton. The LRA will be firm and forthright in defending our green spaces.
The District Council started to evaluate all of its land for possible development, and published a list of its sites for large-scale housing development. The LRA were extremely concerned that the only sites the Council had managed to identify were green spaces in Debden. These green spaces are highly valued by residents, and are much-used. The LRA is strongly opposed to putting housing on ANY of these sites, which we feel are the essential 'lungs' of our neighbourhoods.
We sent letters to many of the surrounding houses (delivered by local residents) and had well over 400 replies. The vast majority objected to Loughton's green spaces, children's playgrounds and nature reserves being built on at all. A quickly gathered petition of 700 names, presented to the Council, confirmed the strength of the opposition.
We challenged the Council's selection of the five sites by calling for a debate at the Council's O & S Committee, where we led the opposition. We won the debate, with the Committee voting unanimously to ask the portfolio-holder (Councillor Dave Stallan) to review the five sites, and the way in which any sites are selected in future. We were promised that a full list of sites considered so far would be published, including those that have been rejected, together with the criteria used to reject them (this has not yet happened).
We are very grateful to Independent Councillor Stephen Murray for his support, and for the fair-minded way in which Councillor Stallan and the other councillors that took part - of all parties - dealt with this topic. (See and hear the debate at the O & S meeting on 28th August on the Council's website http://www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/local_democracy/Webcasts_Meetings.asp)
The Conservative-led District Council now appears to be working out an overall plan for where housing developments in the District might go, before considering individual sites. Meanwhile, the LRA-led Town Council is pushing on with the work needed to register some of Loughton's green spaces as village greens, following the outcry when the District Council put forward Debden's green spaces for possible development. It is setting up meetings with the lead residents (who will help their neighbours fill in the necessary paperwork), and has been taking advice from Essex County Council and other local councils that have gone through the process of registration.
The potential sites were:
- Part of the open space between Jessel Drive and Goldingham Avenue opposite the Cottage Loaf [picture]
- Land at the corner of Rectory Lane and Newmans Lane including the playground [picture]
- Most of the green area between Westall Road and Rochford Green [picture]
- The former allotments at Willingale Road (but not the current allotments) - this site cannot be registered as a village green [picture]
- Wooded site between Oakwood Hill estate and Chigwell Lane, currently part of the nature reserve [picture]
The other sites that we want to register as village greens are
- the green area in front of the old Bus Garage (on Church Hill near the Rectory Lane corner, opposite Homebase and in front of Maple Gate)
- Rookwood Green - that is, the "D-shaped green between Rookwood Gardens and Rookwood Avenue.